Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some history and some randomness

Bunting, Eve. The Pirate Captain's Daughter.
Nominated for the Cybils by Lois Hume, copy provided by Sleeping Bear Press
Catherine knows that her father is no longer a naval captain, but her ailing mother does not know that he is now a pirate. When her mother dies, 15-year-old Catherine convinces her father that she should sail with him instead of staying behind under the care of her music teacher. Cutting her hair and wearing a loose shirt, she is introduced to the pirate crew as Charlie and put to work playing flute with the rag tag crew band. William, a cabin boy, soon finds out her secret, which she does not hide well, and since women on ships spell disaster, he says he will not tell. Others find out, however, and things end badly, with her father's death and with William and Catherine being put off the ship onto a deserted island.
Strengths: Bunting is always a good story teller, and this is a decent tale of the high seas.
Weaknesses: This feels very derivative and lacking in the dash of so many other women-as-pirate adventures, of which there are so many! Catherine is rather wimpy, and not a good pirate at all.

Lynch, Chris. Vietnam: I Pledge Allegiance.
Morris and his friends Rudi, Ivan and Beck make a pact that if one of them must serve in Vietnam, they will all go. Morris is scared that they will all die, but when older Rudi is drafted, he signs up for the navy. All four boys are not overly keen on fighting, but up for the adventure and more supportive of their country's involvement in this conflict than many at the time were. Morris finds life in the Navy gritty, and finds a surprising affinity for shooting and killing. No information on the series, but I imagine that the other books will outline the other friends' experiences.
Strengths: Unlike most war books, that tell how horrible war is, this one seems to embrace it. From page 142: "The thing, finally, that makes shooting at a person feel right? It's shooting at them. Shooting a gun is the thing that convinces you of the rightness of shooting. Because it works. It solves problems, after all, right? I can feel it right this second, as the repeating action of the machine gun shakes my hands to a state of absolute numbness... I am not, for the moment, afraid."
Weaknesses: This is just what the war-mongering boys want, and exactly why I don't really want them to read it. I vastly prefer the "war is horrible" stance, but that's not really the value of our society as a whole, is it?

Barber, Ronde and Tiki, with Paul Mantell. Red Zone.
Ronde and Tiki are all set to play in the championships for their middle school team, but an epidemic of chicken pox is taking down most of the team. One after the other of the players comes down with it, including the Barber boys, who try to hide the fact and be allowed to play. In the end, a postponement makes it possible for the team to rally enough players to win. The fourth in the series. Goal Line, the fifth, is also out.
Strengths: The boys adore this series. Really, why is Paul Mantell not writing under his own name?
Weaknesses: I couldn't believe the chicken pox epidemic. It probably really happened, but in ten years, I don't think I've had a single student come down with chicken pox. If this is based on something that happened to the Barbers 20 years ago, okay, but I just couldn't get into the book because that distracted me.

Griffiths, Andy. Just Shocking and Just Stupid.
File these under things I don't understand, but The Day My Butt Went Psycho is one that the boys will check out if only for giggling over, so I got the prebinds of these. Just goofy stories and jokes, with margins cluttered with gofy illustrations. Right after I got the order in, students saw these on the catalog and wanted them. I may have to do a post on Wimpy Kid type books, even though the students who check out nine of these a day are slowly driving me mad.

Two titles that intrigued me but I just couldn't get into. Maybe they are what you need.

Towell, Katy. Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow.
Thought this would be methadone for Snicket addicts, but I just could not get into this one. Maybe it was the misspelling in the title, or the illustrations, or the similarity to Potter's The Kneebone Boy which has not done well in my library. There are certainly others who like this.
Hippies, Beauty and Books. Oh, My!,
Rising Shadow,
Book Trends
My Book Journey

Halpern, Julie. Don't Stop Now.
From the publisher: "Recent high school graduates Lil and Josh leave Illinois for Oregon seeking Lil's sort-of friend Penny, who faked her own kidnapping to escape problems at home and an abusive boyfriend, but Lil also wants to find out if she and Josh are meant to be more than friends. "

Honestly, I think the big thing that made me stop reading were the repeated descriptions of Josh's poor hygiene and the overly morose demeanor of Penny. Middle schoolers who want romance want something a little lighter. People who liked this included:

Secrets and Sharing Soda, The Book Scoop, GreenBean TeenQueen, and Girls in the Stacks.

And I have to laugh. Inside Out and Back Again won the National Book Award. My comment was that since none of my students would ask for something like that, it would win the Newbery. There's still time. ***Sigh***

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